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Help at hand for the farming community

A life in farming comes with many uncertainties. From commodity prices to bad weather, it’s impossible to plan for every eventuality. Many in the farming community struggle in silence to cope with difficulties which are out of their control. Although we recognise the effects of these challenges and the issues faced by farmers, some shy away from putting their hand up for help and support –even when it’s most needed.

The Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (R.A.B.I)

In addition to the specialist support available from our Agriculture Relationship Managers, help is available from the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (R.A.B.I). The farming sector’s oldest and largest charity offers financial support, practical care and guidance to farming people of all ages and their dependants. Founded in 1860 by Essex farmer John Mechi, R.A.B.I’s tailored support is offered in absolute confidence in a wide range of ways.

What type of support can R.A.B.I provide for working farmers?

  • Helping with applications for state benefits and tax credits
  • Arranging free debt advice
  • Organising free business appraisals
  • Buying disability equipment and funding home adaptations
  • Covering hospital travel costs
  • Paying domestic utility bills
  • Emergency grants in times of extreme need, for example, during floods
  • Providing food vouchers and hampers
  • Paying for relief farm staff when a farmer is sick or injured and cannot work
  • Buying essential white goods

Vocational training grants can also be given to established working farmers, which can be a significant benefit to those who are not making enough income from the farm alone to earn a living. It enables them to build upon their existing skills and experience, or learn new skills, to gain qualifications leading to secondary employment to supplement the farm income.

How does R.A.B.I provide this support?

When you call R.A.B.I you’ll speak to a member of a dedicated team in Oxford. Making that first call –and talking about personal things with someone you don’t know –might sound daunting. However, it’s 100% confidential, so you’ll be free to discuss what’s on your mind without judgement. No information will be disclosed to third parties without explicit permission. It’s likely that following that initial call R.A.B.I will arrange for a regional welfare officer to visit you. This allows you to build a relationship with someone who’s on your side –and wants to help you find the best solutions to your problems. Again, confidentiality is assured every step of the way so you’ve absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain.

How does R.A.B.I fund the help they provide?

Much of R.A.B.I’s income comes from donations from individuals, businesses and community groups, gifts in wills, grants from charitable trusts and fundraising events held by voluntary county committees. Investment income is the second main funding stream and this money underpins running costs and some aspects of the charity’s work. Around 84% of the money spent every year goes on charitable activities, with 11% spent on income generation and a further 5% used to manage investments.

Bringing support to life

The following stories show how valuable the support provided by R.A.B.I can be to clients:

Frank’s story

Frank has been a farmer all his life. He first approached R.A.B.I I for help because he was also caring for his sick wife. R.A.B.I arranged for a welfare officer to visit and a care package was put together with Social Services. R.A.B.I also assisted with benefit claims, providing vital assistance so Frank could claim money he didn’t even know he was entitled to. Sadly, Frank’s wife died, and his situation got even worse when he suffered a major stroke himself and was hospitalised for four months. He was told he might not walk again and taken into residential care. His family kept the farm going, with R.A.B.I also contributing towards the costs of a shepherd and arranging for a farm secretary from the Institute of Agricultural Secretaries and Administrators (IAgSA) to help with paperwork. R.A.B.I also supported Frank’s claim for Personal Independence Payments.

Frank said: “I cannot tell you what it has meant to me to have a safety net. I don’t know what my future in farming will be, but I would love to keep going at some level. Time will tell but the support that I have been given helps me to stay positive about the future.”

Gareth and Jemma’s story

Herdsman Gareth and wife Jemma faced the worst nightmare of parents; the risk of losing their new-born son. By the time he was six weeks old, their son had undergone three emergency operations after being born with a serious heart condition. With their world caving in around them, Gareth did not expect his employers to ‘let him go’ because he was not around to milk the cows. He felt desperately let down when he most needed the support of those around him.

Given an artificial heart valve, Gareth and Jemma were delighted to see their son beat the odds and make a wonderful recovery. However, Gareth’s own health began to suffer and at the age of 29 he had to undergo a kidney transplant operation. Complications resulted in his kidney function dropping dangerously low and huge clots effectively crushing the kidney. R.A.B.I supported the family financially and advised them how to claim ESA and tax credits.

The following six to eight months were extremely tough for the family and Gareth had to return to hospital several times. Now, they’re all in a much better place. Jemma said: “None of what happened was our fault, but it was difficult to get help. I’m so grateful to R.A.B.I because there was nothing or no one else out there for us.”

Seeking help

R.A.B.I can help with the small things as well as the big and treats every application for support on its own merits, working with compassion and discretion. It’s the charity’s vision that no member of the farming community should ever have to face adversity alone.

Call the Freephone Helpline 0808 281 9490.